The World Health Organization convened for an “urgent” meeting on Tuesday in response to an outbreak of the deadly Marburg virus in Africa, reports NY Post.
A least nine people have been confirmed to have died from the virus’ first-ever outbreak in Equatorial Guinea, prompting WHO officials to meet to discuss progress on vaccine and treatment candidates.
Deadliest virus outbreak
The Marburg virus is one of the deadliest diseases known to man. It causes hemorrhagic fever with a fatality ratio as high as 88% — far deadlier than its better-known cousin, the Ebola virus, according to WHO.
Like Ebola, the disease is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads in humans through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people and surfaces such as bedsheets or clothes, the WHO said.
“Marburg is highly infectious. Thanks to the rapid and decisive action by the Equatorial Guinean authorities in confirming the disease, emergency response can get to full steam quickly so that we save lives and halt the virus as soon as possible,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Samples from Equatorial Guinea were sent to a lab in Senegal to pinpoint the cause of the outbreak after an alert from a local health official last week, the WHO said. So far, nine people out of a suspected 16 cases have died, with symptoms including fever, fatigue, diarrhea and blood-stained vomit.
Symptoms of the Marburg virus
Painful symptoms take hold rapidly, and patients typically develop severe hemorrhagic symptoms within seven days, WHO said. After days of infection, patients have been described as showing “ghost-like” drawn features, deep-set eyes, expressionless faces and extreme lethargy, the agency said.
Fatal cases usually involve blood in vomit and feces as well as bleeding from the nose, gums and vagina.
The WHO said it was sending medical experts and protective equipment to help officials in Equatorial Guinea curb the outbreak. In neighboring Cameroon, suspected cases were detected on Monday in Olamze, a commune on the border with Equatorial Guinea, and the country restricted movement in the region.
“Surveillance in the field has been intensified,” said George Ameh, WHO’s country representative in Equatorial Guinea. “Contact tracing, as you know, is a cornerstone of the response. We have … redeployed the COVID-19 teams that were there for contact tracing and quickly retrofitted them to really help us out,” Ameh said.
Currently, there are no authorized vaccines or antiviral treatments for the Marburg virus, however, WHO said that survival is improved with supportive care like rehydration with oral or IV fluids.
A number of treatments such as blood products, immune and drug therapies and vaccine candidates are being evaluated. “We’re working on a 30-day response plan where we should be able to quantify what are the exact measures and quantify what are the exact needs,” Ameh said.
Marburg killed 90% of 252 infected people in a 2004 outbreak in Angola. Last year, there were two reported Marburg deaths in Ghana.
The rare virus was first identified in 1967 after it caused simultaneous outbreaks of disease in laboratories in Marburg, Germany and Belgrade, Serbia. Seven people who were exposed to the virus while conducting research on monkeys died.
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Source: NY Post